Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thankful for.....

So we've just finished our turkey, and while we wait to go to our movie (a family tradition), I'm thinking about what I'm thankful for (beyond family, friends and health--always first on my list). Here are some thoughts... in sort of priority order....and then a hope....

1. I'm thankful for a generous and compassionate population, who reach out to others directly, and through nonprofits.

2. I'm thankful for freedom--freedom of speech (which often results in people realizing that others are being hurt - think slavery, women's rights, prisoner abuse), freedom of religion (which is the basis of so much good in the nonprofit sector) and freedom of choice -so we don't have to get all our education, health care, art, music, from one central source.....

3. I'm thankful that the US Senate came to its senses and didn't mandate 15 board members for every nonprofit, or that all nonprofits have to be re-authorized every three years. Actually, I'm just grateful the Senate came to its senses at all...they seem to have lacked that until the past few weeks.

4. I'm grateful for creative compassion. I'm always awed by the endless number ways that bright, caring people can come up with to help others.

5. I'm thankful to live in an age allows instant communication all over the world, so that people who have never known each other can still help each other quickly and efficiently.

And I hope that one day, we all, everywhere, can be as united in thought and common hope as we were on that wonderful July night when I was 17, and the first men were landing on the moon. I have never forgotten the sense of global unity, of common purpose, of togetherness that we talked about for weeks afterward. Even though it seems so remote in this fractured, angry world, it sure would be nice to feel that again.

Anyway, hope you had a good thanksgiving...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Again impressed

Janet Froetscher, the CEO of the United Way of Greater Chicago, came to speak at our Kellogg class Monday. I was again impressed, not only by Janet, but by what the United Way in Chicago is doing. It has made huge strides in re-empowering communities, in driving performance and outcomes, and in forcing the area's nonprofit community to think differently.

One crux of all this is common information, common indicators, larger databases, and people who are dedicated to sifting through the data to find signficant nuggets.

And, a great outcome of all this work was the community's response to all the victims of Katrina who began showing up two days after the hurricane struck. Janet told us that story and noted that the trust/visibility United Way had built up over the prior three years was put to great use as the UW coordinated the community response.

Yet again, Janet said the magic words---"United Way buys outcomes, we don't fund projects."

If only the rest of the funding world would listen.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Drucker remembered

What a mind. Half of my book clubs read Managing the Nonprofit Organization this month, and we talked (three days after his death) about the importance of Drucker's weighing in on nonprofit organizations needing to be better managed when he did (1990). As I vividly recall, his ideas (which a bunch of people, including yours truly had been advocating for a decade with no luck), created a firestorm of criticism. People in the field, particularly foundations and large national nonprofits, scoffed at the idea of a charity being businesslike, dissing the concept as unseemly, and bemoaning the "fact" that adopting business techniques would sully the pristine landscape of charities.

Some people still feel that way today, although far fewer, particularly in an era of outcome measures, benchmarking, and transparency. Drucker's name and reputation was so large, so imposing that he really was the father of good nonprofit management.

And we owe him a pause in our busy days to remember that.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Ann Arbor thoughts

In Ann Arbor for parents' weekend. Yet again impressed with the next generation of young people and their amazing talents. We've been to games, concerts, shows, had dinner, all with students who make me sooooo optimistic about the future.
And where is the missing one of my son's roommates? At a conference on organizing college students as volunteers with some huge number of his peers. And where are a large number of Michigan students going at spring break (including my son)? To the Gulf, and other locations, to help others.

We're growing a great new generation of volunteers and community activists. The trick will be to keep them active in our organizations after they get into the "real" world.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Let's stop spam

Our friends at Techsoup have some great ideas on stopping spam. PLEASE join in....

From today's Techsoup newsletter comes the following:

The third annual "Stop Spam Today!" campaign begins today. This
educational campaign is sponsored by and Mailshell,
one of our long-time technology partners. The campaign
culminates on December 14 and 15, when nonprofits and libraries
can order free MailShell anti-spam software at TechSoup Stock.
Throughout the campaign, will feature content
focused on protecting your organization from the dangers of
spam. Highlights include articles to help you fight spam in your
organization and links to helpful anti-spam resources.

Not bad---free advice, free software, and anything that can reduce the plague of spam gets my vote.....check it out at:

Die, spam, die......

Sunday, November 06, 2005

SOX stuff

No, not the White Sox (who?) or even the Red Sox. Most readers know what SOX is. The Sarbanes-Oxley bill, which Congress enacted to counter the excesses of Enron and WorldCom, has some implications (although no outright provisions) for nonprofits. And, pretty much everyone (including yours truly) feels that there are provisions of SOX that make sense for you to implement at your nonprofit.

Independent Sector and BoardSource have done some good work on this. Two papers are available, both in .pdf form:

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Implications for Nonprofit Organizations


Learning from Sarbanes-Oxley: A Checklist for Nonprofits and Foundations

These two documents are worth both reading and printing out to have on hand if you are asked what your organization is doing in this area.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Leadership fun

Had a ridiculously fun discussion at Kellogg last night with my MBA students about leadership in nonprofits. The students were engaged and animated, and it was a great time.

Most interesting to me was the number (about 25%) who responded to a pre-class assignment by providing the same top two leadership characteristics for for-profit leaders AND nonprofit leaders. Previous classes had made careful distinctions between the two. As I told the class, I think this is because, more than our previous classes, this group "gets" the concept that leadership is about people, and people are really pretty much the same everywhere.

We did agree, however, that the impact of poor leader behavior for nonprofit leaders is greater than in for-profits. Thus Martha Stewart comes out of jail, gets a reality show, and is back on track, her company little if any worse for her time in the slammer. Try imagining a nonprofit leader getting her old job back after jail time for a felony.

Anyway, good discussion. A room full of bright eyes. What a rush.